On Saturday, June 24, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, broke his silence, after many weeks of regaining his freedom on bail.
In the no holds-barred chat, the director of Radio Biafra spoke on varied issues, concerning Biafra and why he would not give up. He equally commented on the bail conditions given to him, saying they infringed on his fundamental human rights.
You were incarcerated for over one year for agitating for a state of Biafra and only released about two months ago with some conditions attached. Could you say the air of freedom you are breathing is total?
It is not complete. There are Biafrans who are still in detention. There seems to be slight progress, I should say because two were recently released, but Bright Chemizie Isinwa is still in detention. David Nwawuisi is still in detention. Benjamin Madubugwu is still in detention. Chidebere Onwudiwe is still in detention. These are the things that make me not to fill complete because our people are still in detention. Most of the time, I think about them and because I think about them, it worsens my condition. I’m not happy they are still in detention; that’s the truth. With them in prison, believe you me, a part of me is till in detention.
Are there efforts to see that these people are released?
Yes, we are fighting very hard. I fight for everybody, who is being detained. Even you know about Sale Mohammad (a member of IPOB in Bayelsa State), who was released yesterday (Friday). I paid for a lawyer to file his case at Federal High Court. Ejiofor, my own personal lawyer, handled his case because I hate seeing people in detention. People don’t understand that what we are fighting for cuts across many divides, both religious and ethnic. Biafra will be a land for everybody; it’s a place where anybody from anywhere can come to, and so, Sale Mohammad was released yesterday (Friday).
We have had cases in the past where people were detained over Biafra struggle and nobody cared about them. Why are you so much concerned about your compatriots in detention?
It is because of who I am; that’s how my parents brought me up. Caring for other people is the reason I do what I do. I don’t rest; anytime I go out, I see poverty-stricken faces. I see people who cannot make ends meet. I go through bad roads. I think about other people’s suffering. That is what drives me all the time; that is why I have no money because I give it out to people. It’s just my nature because when you are happy, I’m happy; if you are sad, I can never be happy. We pay hospital bills of people, who cannot pay. There are two departments I handle in IPOB: Legal cases and medical situations. So, we make sure we pay all the hospital bills; we take care of people, who are injured and their families.
About eight IPOB members were alleged to have been killed by soldiers at National High School in Aba last year and the army has come to deny this. What do you have to say on this?
It is not eight; eight is the official number that was given. How can they deny it? The video is out there for everybody to see. The video is out there for the whole world to see. Amnesty International saw the video; we took them to the mass grave; they saw the dead bodies and photographs were taken, pictures were taken, videos were shot; the evidence is there. The army knows they shot our people; at Nkpor, they killed our people; we have the videos; we had it covered live; we caught them in video, carting away dead bodies in their Hilux vans and dumping them in mass graves; it was there for the whole world to see.
In granting you bail, the court gave conditions, among which are that you should not be seen in the mist of more than 10 persons or address rallies. What do you have to say?
Are you telling me that when people come to my house, I should not speak to them? Now, you came to my father’s palace. Shouldn’t I speak to you? It is my fundamental human right to speak, to talk and to freely associate; denying me these, when I have not been convicted, speaks volume of the hopelessness of the Nigerian situation. That’s how awful it is. Why would you ask somebody not to speak? Have I been convicted of any crime? Is there presumption of innocence before proven guilty? If I am innocent and under bail, why should you prevent me from talking? What are you hiding? What don’t you want Nnamdi Kanu to say? They must answer these questions. We are going back to court to ask them to vary the condition because it is unsustainable. It’s not done anywhere in the world.
Are you not afraid that the court might revoke your bail?
Let me tell you something; my people are in prison. If I go back to be with them, I don’t care. I just don’t give a damn. My interest is Biafra; it doesn’t matter where I am. I can be in prison. I can be in the grave. I can be anywhere; my interest remains Biafra and it must come. There is no amount of intimidation that can stop me.
I don’t give a damn what happens next. I respect the judge, Justice Binta Nyako; she is learned, one of the very few learned judges we have and she will judge the case on its merit. She knows I’m a human being. I have to speak. If you stop me from speaking, you are infringing on a fundamental right, when I have not been convicted. You cannot restrict my right without convicting me first.
On May 30, Igbo were asked to stay at home and there was 100 per cent compliance. What does that portend for your struggle?
It means that people are ready and it means that now the onus is on them to go one step further. What we want to do is to remove our people from their present state of what I call intellectual inertia to become very active participants in determining their future and their destiny. What do I mean by that? I want a situation whereby when we say no to Anambra elections, we stick to it. For once, we forget the needs of the stomach; we stopped worrying about how we were going to feed our family and thought about other families that are not feeding. That is why we are sending a very clear unmistakable message to the world that things can no longer be the same. We are not carrying any guns; we are fighting anybody; we are not forcing or compelling anybody to do anything. However, on November 18, 2017, we will not vote in Anambra. Whatever they want to do, they can do until they give us a date for our referendum. The reason is very simple. We’ve been voting people into office, and they have been dealing with us.
Following the quit order of Arewa youths, some Igbo leaders said South easterners, living in the North will not come home under whatever form. What do you make out this?
The same thing happened in 1966 and they killed all of them, who went back to the North. In the pogrom that followed, 300, 000 were massacred. The Jews had the same problem in Europe. We are like the Jews, as you know; people always want to leave outside territories that are hostile to them. When there is a problem with the cartoon of Prophet Mohammed, they kill our people in the North; when they bomb Afghanistan, they kill our people in the North; when there is problem in the Gaza Strip, in Israel, they kill our people in the North. Who will be comfortable with such political arrangement? Anybody comfortable with these must be an animal; you must be a very big fool.
What Junaid Mohammad and Prof Ango Abdullahi need to understand is that IPOB, which I lead, is saying no to that type of existence. A woman was preaching in Kano, they killed her; another one in Abuja, they killed her; people kept quiet, as if nothing happened. It’s normal because if you are carrying someone else’s corpse, it’s like you are carrying dry firewood. And the more you leave these heinous crimes and atrocities un-investigated, it will embolden them to do more; that’s why Fulani herdsmen are killing people, because when they kill, nothing happens.
IPOB is saying no to this. I don’t hate anybody. I love (former presidents Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Umaru Yar’Adua. I’m just talking of recent times. Enugu/ Port Harcourt expressway was built by the NPN government of Shagari and then you can travel with joy because it was smooth and very clean. Now, tell me who has ever done that since after Shagari. Which other infrastructure will you be proud of?
Nobody has ever done anything. Umaru Yar’Adua was also a good and perfect gentleman. I have never met Shagari and I never met Yar’Adua, but these are good people. I’m not saying we don’t have other good people in the North, no; we have many of them, even in the judiciary, who are nice. But the few terrible, horrible ones won’t allow them to emerge; that’s the problem. of Yar’Adua was a gentleman. He knew how to deal with people. He knew how to handle people.
From what you have said, you want Igbo in the North to go back home. There is the talk about their investments put at over N44 trillion. If the leave, what happens to these investments?
Did anyone ask them to invest N44 trillion outside Biafra land? Were they compelled to do that? Why did they not invest N44 trillion in Igbo land? How many trillion does Yoruba or Hausa have in Igbo land? The owners of the oil blocs, how many trillions do they have in Igbo land? Well, our people should know that if you made one million Naira in Nigeria, you will make one billion over the same period in Biafra and we will grow our economy. The Jews in Europe had the same problem, the same dilemma; they left their property in Austria, in Hungary, in Spain, in France and returned to Israel. They didn’t stay because of material things. I refer my people to the Bible. The wife of Lot looked back at her gold and silver pieces and she turned into a pillar of salt. If you keep considering and looking back over your property, your two bedrooms, two-by-two in Jalingo or somewhere, you will lose your life.
There is the assumption that while former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, you didn’t agitate for Biafra the way you are doing now, largely because you regard him as your brother. What do you say?
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is my uncle, yes. I was one of those who said Jonathan’s tenure was more or less an Igbo presidency; it’s on record that I said that. The fact is that I was vibrating more on Radio Biafra during Jonathan’s government than I’m doing now. There was nothing I never said against Jonathan and he knew I never liked his regime because he was weak. I don’t support evil; if you do well I will tell you; if you do bad, I will say it the way it is. I don’t curry favours. He was weak. I wish it was aunty, Patience Jonathan, who was in-charge; she would have done better.
Look at where Jonathan brought us today; he never finished building the East/West Road, but he built railway line from Abuja to Kaduna so that they will love him. Who told you they will love you? Who told you? Did they love Zik? Zik was begging them, come let’s build. The North said no, we don’t want Nigeria; it was Zik that was begging them.
If Biafra becomes a reality, would you have a shot at the presidency?
No, I’m on record, as having said that I will not put myself forward for that very important position. The people will choose who will rule or govern them. I am in the struggle to make sure that Biafra is restored in my life time; that’s my mission; that’s my purpose and not to be the president of Biafra.